Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Discount Racks, Closeout Lists, Noble Wines, and Adiaphora

(thoughts at large about disjointed stuff that's somehow connected in my understanding of things)

I have now concluded that my discount racks are clearly not a gamble for my more adventurous shoppers.  I can say that after tasting a dozen or so wines from over there with little in the way of disappointment in any of them.  The reds that end up there are usually little known Europeans that are always better than comparably priced domestic wines.  The whites are older vintages that may be losing their fruit and just need to be drunk.  The 20% that is taken off those purchases at the register makes the whites a fair deal and the reds a ridiculous deal for anyone who dares to venture there.  Also, like any other wine in the place, if you hold it up and ask me, I will always tell the truth as to the quality if I can.

Recently two of my vendors presented me with lists of closeout wines.  I trust both of these fellows to shoot straight with me on such things because of our a long working history.  As it turns out both of these guys weren't so proud of what was being offered on their respective lists, but for different reasons.  After I noticed his discounts didn't add up to much, one vendor admitted his list was a pretender.  Often such lists sneak in regularly priced wines under the guise of being a deal.  This list was entirely just a dollar or so off regular prices so I bought a few niche bottles but let the rest go.

The other vendor always has a serious list but the quality is often suspect.  Most retailers see red flags and stay away from such lists because no one wants to get hung with bad wines.  But I learned something from this fellow.  He told me that one reason for the number of clunkers on the list is because salesmen like himself often don't even look at the list because of questions of quality and the number of clunkers on the list just increases as a result of that neglect.  The "minefield" that results can be navigated to reach some real bargains, but the prevailing wisdom says, "Don't go there."

Adiaphora is a term in Christian theology for things that are not essential to the faith or "matters of indifference".   Religions are known for contructing walls for conformity to ideas and behaviors promoted by the faith.  Adiaphora recognizes that some of these walls just aren't that important and perhaps may be ignored.  So when I got into the wine business back in the late seventies, the prevailing construct held that there were noble wine grapes capable of making superior wines and then there were all of the others (adiaphora) which, in the right conditions, may make good wine but never up to the level of the noble types.

Now it seems like the whole "noble wine" construct is adiaphora as shown by the great wines made in specific venues using otherwise pedestrian grapes.  Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley.  Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough.  Malbec in Argentina.  Merlot and Syrah in Washington State.  And on down the line.  Pinot Noir was seen as noble back in the day but what really is the difference between Pinot in Burgundy and Chenin in Loire when both are ordinary everywhere else?

Join us this Thursday the 14th for a tasting of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at 7pm here at the store and then at the weekly event on Friday at 5pm Dave Klepinger presents the California wines of Aviary Vineyards and Bread & Butter.  On the 29th of the month David Hobbes returns with a tasting of Greek wines.

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